I had the good fortune to work with about thirty teaches studying for their Masters in Thinking and Learning at the Graduate Institute (TGI) in Bethany Connecticut. The TGI’s innovative programs have been going for over a decade, meeting and surpassing the rigorous demands of the state education system.
I was asked to lead three cohorts over three separate two day periods. My message is simple - stillness and silence are good for you and your students.
My own experiences are confirmed by modern research and data. Students who pause to be silent and still during the day will start to benefit from higher cognitive function at all levels - focus, memory storage, creative and critic thinking. Other benefits include reduced stress and anxiety as well as enhanced well-being. When students experience this at school they become authentic and motivated to learn.
This is significant. Deep down in their hearts and souls, teachers are motivated to serve and help bring forth the whole character of their students. They see this as their priority and as the ground for their students to succeed academically. However they are frustrated and becoming desperate as they are forced to focus on common core curricula and standardized testing. Many of them express how the over-emphasis on academic results causes alienation, stress and anxiety in schools. The complete opposite of what inspires learning and creativity in the classroom.
As a result a staggering 50% of new teachers leaving the profession within their first five years. Also many veterans are leaving the profession prematurely through burnout and disillusionment.
Each cohort from the TGI program has a wide spectrum of teachers in the K-12 system. They range from a few years of experience to veterans who have been teaching three decades or more. One of the first questions I ask the group is what is the legacy they wish to leave behind them as teachers. The responses are overwhelmingly human. They want their students to develop intellectually, socially and spiritually. Not once has a teacher declared they want to be remembered as the teacher who helped their students pass exams or learn set curricula.
Herein lies the rub. If teachers feel the school system is not aligned with their aspirations and motives to help young people then cynicism creeps in and everyone suffers. The media and politicians capitalize on this schism between administration and teachers to feed the cynicism. Many teachers, students and parents report how negative and toxic the school environment has become. My workshops are designed to remind teachers that their reasons for teaching are right and there is a way through the toxic clouds of negativity hanging over schools.
The combination of the cohorts’ readiness for new ideas and meaningful pedagogical tools along with my passion to bring them has resulted in an overwhelming positive synergy. My messages are simple:
“This workshop presented me with tools and techniques I would never have thought of. It challenged my thinking and renewed my passion to teach. I have been teaching for 29 years and feel in touch with the reason I started teaching. Lawrence embodies all that the TGI represents.”
“This was the best two day experience of how to create a positive classroom experience in the last twenty years. I would love to have him come again and meet with us in the Fall.”
“This workshop exceeded not only the goals but all of my expectations. I will be recommending Lawrence to my school district.”
Lawrence Carroll was nominated for Distinctive Educator of the Berkshires in 2011 and has been sharing his methodologies and techniques with teachers ever since.
"Lawrence Carroll's workshop on personal stress management, which he conducted with my Columbia Grad School class
was a huge success."
Neal Pilson, Columbia University, Former President, CBS Sports